Focused Amla not keen to hash on his mighty Oval triple ton
ON THE OCCASION of its 100th Test match, there’s naturally been a lot of reminiscing at The Oval this week and there’ll continue to be over the coming days.
South Africa’s major contribution to the storied ground’s 137-year history strode across the outfield yesterday, having completed training, and said that while his innings here five years ago will always remain special, it’s not something he’s keen to focus on this week.
Hashim Amla’s 311 is still the highest Test score by a South African and while celebrated in South Africa, in these parts it doesn’t hold the same reverence as Len Hutton’s 364 – in 1938 a then world record – or even Viv Richards’ 291 in 1976.
In the latter’s case that was a flamboyant effort that typified the method of one of the all-time great Test teams, while Hutton’s effort nearly 80 years ago is still the highest Test score by an Englishman.
Amla’s performance in 2012 was a master class in patient batting that interspersed periods of calm with moments of classic stroke-play. He mastered England’s fine off-spinner Graeme Swann, nudging and flicking him smartly on the leg-side, and when Swann drifted wide of the off-stump, Amla would unleash the cover drive. As his innings continued, the sweep became a feature – a demonstration of how he changed strategy against Swann, who was left exasperated and injured, and was dropped for the second Test of the series. Amla, has sought to suppress those memories as South Africa attempt to take a lead in what has been a topsyturvy series. “I remember just trying to bat as long as I can, and thankfully I did,” he said of his 13 hours and 10 minutes at the crease. “The one thing I remember, we were bowling on the first day, England were in a good position after day one and the way we came back the next day, bowling them out (for 385), that was the turning point in the game; it got us back in. To win that Test, the fight we showed is what stayed with me from the last time we played here.
“A lot of cricket has happened since; I don’t think there’ll be any thoughts of that (innings). I find things that happened in the past, if you linger too long on them, it becomes more of a distraction.”
Asked if he was still the same player as five years ago, Amla quipped: “I’ve got the same name.”
His statistics are not quite the same, though. Before that triple century, he’d scored two centuries and four halfcenturies in his previous 13 innings, but this year his form’s not been as prolific – just one century and three fifties in 15 innings.
But there did appear to be a reminder of the Amla of 2012 in the way he played in the second Test in Nottingham last week when knocks of 78 and 87 suggested he was getting back to some good Test form.
“I’ve trained as tough as I can; that’s important for me, whether the scores come or not. It’s about applying yourself and letting the score take care of itself.”
South Africa look by far the more settled of the two teams ahead of tomorrow morning’s start.
They’ll make just one change, bringing in Kagiso Rabada for Duanne Olivier, while England will ponder changes to their batting – whether to add an extra batsman – or their bowling, to drop one of Mark Wood or Liam Dawson.
The only confirmed change to Joe Root’s side that lost at Trent Bridge will be a debut for Tom Westley in place of the injured Gary Ballance.
“Any team that’s won the last game will carry some momentum or positivity with them, so... we carry that. And having (coach) Russell (Domingo) and KG (Kagiso Rabada) back helps us. We’re a settled team... that is good for us,” said Amla.